China promises to strike hard on corruption after pit tragedy 2007-12-11 17:08:10   Print

    BEIJING, Dec. 11 (Xinhua) -- China's production safety watchdog promised on Tuesday to strike hard on corruption and dereliction of duty in the mining industry after a coal mine gas blast in north China killed 105 last week.

    Li Yizhong, head of the State Administration of Work Safety (SAWS), has blamed major accidents, including the Xinyao Coal Mine blast in Shanxi Province, on weak governmental supervision and soft punishment.

    China has seen three major gas blasts in the Shanxi Province this year, including the Yujialing and Pudeng accidents, which killed 159 people in total.

    "The blast has exposed severe violations in the mining industry," said Li. "Immediate measures need to be taken to check major accidents."

    He said the number nine coal bed, where the accident occurred, was not approved for mining. However, it had been mined since February 2006. Owners of the mine faked the documents and temporarily blocked the coal bed to deliberately elude inspection.

    At the time of the accident, ten mining teams were working at the site, with 54 motor vehicles that did not meet safety requirements.

    The gas level of the number nine coal bed was not tested, so the safety conditions were unknown at the time. In addition, there was no gas checking system or rescue equipment provided in the mine.

    The approved annual output of the coal mine was 210,000 tons, with a maximum of 61 workers in one shift. However, a total of 447people had worked in the mine, and 128 people were at work when the accident happened.

    A preliminary investigation also showed that last year's output reached 500,000 tons, far exceeding the limitation of 210,000 tons, and from January to November this year, in less than seven months actual working period, the output had exceeded 200,000 tons.

    The mine owners failed to report the accident until five hours later, and sent a 37-strong rescue team into the mine without any precautions, which caused the death of another 15 people and delayed the rescue.

    The owners of the mine and the people in charge of the mine could not be found after the accident occurred.

    In late November, local supervision and inspection teams checked the mine three times, but failed to identify any hidden dangers, which reflected obvious loopholes in the supervision system, Li said.

    SAWS statistics show 4,746 people died in coal mine accidents in 2006.

    Major accidents in other fields, such as fireworks plants, metal and non-metal mines and construction, have been rising since last month.

    Twelve major accidents in fireworks plants from late October to the end of November have killed 86, and in the first 11 months, the death toll in the industry rose 5.1 percent over the same period last year.

    During the same period, the death toll in construction accidents rose by 4.7 percent.

    "Previous experience has showed that accidents are more likely to happen before the Spring Festival in February," Li said, stressing that officials should enhance production safety awareness.

    By the end of November, officials had inspected more than 2.76 million factories, mines, transport companies and densely populated areas, and identified 4.87 million hidden dangers.

Editor: Sun Yunlong
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